“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."
-- Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
Welcome to day 18 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge! On day 16, we reviewed the passport application of my great aunt Cecilia Hughes, who we learned went by the alternate spelling, Cecile. Today we will take a look at conflicting evidence surrounding her Passport Application.
In her passport application, Cecile stated that she immigrated to the United States "Sailing on board the Frankonia of the Cunard Line from Liverpool, England, on or about the 3rd of October 1911..." It is important to note here that not all immigrants entered through Ellis Island. In this case, the Frankonia departed Liverpool, England, and landed in Boston, Massachusetts; however, Cecile was not on that ship! Let’s take a look at the manifest and see who from her family was traveling at that time.
Looking at lines 9 and 10, we see Cecile’s father and brother, Stephen, traveling together. The document reveals that their destination is Chicago, Illinois, where Daniel’s sister resides. Daniel claims that he left his mother’s house in Talbot, Wales. So where is his daughter, Cecile?
Census of England and Wales, 1911
Cecile was actually living in Margam, Wales, at her Uncle’s home. Daniel stated in the manifest that he had left his mother, Sarah, behind in Wales, and indeed, Sarah Hughes is listed in the 1911 census with her granddaughter, Cecil. So, when did Cecil actually travel to America?
It appears that Cecile did not join her father and elder brother in the United States for another three years. Her ship, the Lapland, departed from Liverpool on 2 December 1914, and arrived in New York eleven days later -- an obvious discrepancy with her passport application.
So why did Cecile provide her father’s information in her passport application? We can only speculate that this may have been the only supporting documentation she had readily available at the time of completing the application. She clearly knew she was not on the Frankonia with her father and brother when she came to America. While her father and brother initially traveled to Chicago, Illinois, Cecile did correctly state that she went to join her family in New Castle, Pennsylvania. So a portion of the information she provided was true. Had it not been for the 1911 Census, we would have no clue as to where Cecile was when her father left Wales.
Satisfying Contradicting Documentation
The information Cecile Hughes provided in her Passport Application certainly lead us on a wild goose chase, but we cannot dismiss the document as evidence. She did, in fact, provide the information on the document and signed it with her own signature. Nonetheless, there were valuable clues given in the application. Those clues lead us to her father, Daniel’s, immigration information. While Cecile was not on the Frankonia with her father and brother, Daniel’s mention of his mother, Sarah, in the manifest, lead us to look at the 1911 Census, where we found Cecile living with her uncle and his family, as well as her paternal grandmother.
Searching other manifests, using the alternate spelling, Cecile, we were able to locate the ship that brought her to America. This manifest not only showed Cecile traveling to join her family, but lists her father by name. The Passport Application and the Lapland's Manifest agree on the final destination: New Castle, Pennsylvania.
Each document provided a piece of the puzzle. It is imperative to look at each document, evaluate the information, and follow up on the clues given. At times there will be contradictory information, but with careful research, we may be able to resolve the conflict. The key is to never stop looking!
Here is your 5 Point Review:
- When an ancestor arrives or departs from a country, he/she should be listed on a ship manifest.
- You can research immigration records and passenger arrival lists at Archives.gov.
- If you do not find your ancestor on a manifest, do not give up. Seek out other manifests or documented sources.
- If your documentation contradicts each other, look to see if there are some consistencies that can unite the sources.
- When you come to a conclusion regarding the documentation you have found, detail how you came to the conclusion and share it in your family tree.
Congratulations! You have completed Day 18 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!
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History not shared is History forgotten!